The Summer 2014 Anime Preview Guide
Tokyo Ghoul

by The Anime News Network Editorial Team, Jul 2nd 2014

Hope Chapman

Rating: 4

Review: Tokyo Ghoul is really gross. It's full of blood and spit and vomit and tears and intestines. There are lots of intestines in fact. There are so many intestines it's downright hard to stomach (sorry.) If this sounds like a real nightmare to you, move right along, this show is definitely going to be too repulsive for some tastes. For everyone else, this may be the safety-locks-off horror title you've been waiting for.

The basic setup is identical to most "reluctant vampire" narratives. Normal guy meets alluring girl of his dreams (or cool bro in some Anne Rice-ier versions,) and is unexpectedly turned into a bloodsucking monster when it turns out their new friend was only after their "body" in the most literal sense. The thing that sets Tokyo Ghoul apart from the tired pretense of the vampire story is those intestines I mentioned earlier. Poor Ken Kaneki isn't anything so noble as a nocturnal bloodsucker. He's been turned into a supernatural cannibal called a ghoul who eats humans by the pound, and what's worse, something went wrong in the process and left him half-human. He's now immortal, inhuman, and must swallow up human flesh in order to survive. Poor guy.

Pierrot's horror outing doesn't appear to have an outstanding budget, but the show looks nice because it's directed well. Action scenes are captivating and dynamic, character designs are polished and distinct, and even one episode in, there's a clear directorial thumbprint in Tokyo Ghoul that you don't see in most shonen horror of this stripe. It has that wonderful self-indulgence mixed with tone awareness that makes Tetsuro Araki shows so much fun, although director Shuhei Morita certainly has his own style to bring to the work here, and it will be neat discovering what kind of director he is as more action, horror, and character moments appear. Even when the animation leans into necessary shortcuts, the show never looks cheap, and the dramatic highs land in all the right places, even if they land with a sledgehammer thud. (Anyone who prefers subtlety to bombast in their horror should probably skip this one, it's insanely melodramatic.)

Tokyo Ghoul seems like a simple story in really good hands, which means with good fortune it could overcome the strictures of its genre and maybe even become something special. I kept gasping and laughing with discomfort throughout the first episode, and if Tokyo Ghoul keeps up that fervor, it could be one of the most fun anime this summer. Well, if you like your fun coated in warm, gooey, fleshy bits.

Tokyo Ghoul is currently streaming on Funimation.com.


Carl Kimlinger

Rating: 3

Review: It isn't an uncommon tack for horror to take, approaching the story from the viewpoint of the incipient monster—getting inside to see what it might be like to become something inhuman, with inhuman appetites. Vampires are a popular choice, for obvious reasons. Thankfully there're no vampires, but regardless Tokyo Ghoul is breaking no new ground with its tale of ordinary geek Kaneki's transformation into a flesh-eating “ghoul.” But it does recount his descent into a bewildering hell of cannibalistic beasts and unholy urges with vividness and style, with a certain flair for the grotesque and a reliable instinct for the horror of his predicament. Unfortunately it also does so without an iota of art or restraint, and with no awareness of how its excesses undermine its goals. The result is a horror series that is intense and disturbing, but also unintentionally funny and distastefully sloppy in its emotional manipulation.

Shuhei Morita is an excellent craftsman, so the show looks great, and he's got a surprisingly tricky script to back him up. The parts where script and director work in tandem are downright great—as when, through blushing reactions and rom-com coincidences, it is implied that an introverted waitress will be a victim/romantic interest when she is anything but. If only the whole show were as artfully made. Instead we get twenty minutes of histrionics and puking, of gobbets of flesh and gibbering hunger for uncooked people-meat. The series spends most of its time screaming at us to be horrified, unaware in its hunger for intensity that it keeps crossing the line into camp (the binge-purge scene is particularly fruitful), that the most horrifying things are the things left unsaid. Like the implications of the final moments, when Kaneki is picked up, not by an anti-ghoul taskforce, but by the unexpectedly orderly ghoul society. The thought of what he will learn there… now that's horrifying.

Tokyo Ghoul is currently streaming on Funimation.com.


Theron Martin

Rating: 4 (of 5)

Review: Book-loving Ken Kaneki apparently never learned the lesson that all guys should know: if a beautiful woman who seems clearly out of your league takes an interest in you, then you are either dreaming or should take that as a red flag. He didn't when he crushed upon Rize, a woman he often saw in a café who seemed to like the same author that he did, and that very nearly led to his death, for Rize was a Ghoul, an inhuman creature who can pass for human but eats human bodies for sustenance instead of normal food. In fact, she is a special one: a binge-eater. Just gravely wounds and is about to kill Rize, though, a seeming freak accident saves him, but he is so badly injured that he requires organ transplants – ones that, for reasons not yet explained, he apparently got from her. Now he is starting to notice the telltale signs of being a Ghoul – human food tastes awful to him, and he is starting to regard humans as food – and is terrified of what that means. As he soon discovers, there is also a structure to Ghoul activity in Tokyo, and that Rize wasn't the only person he knew who was a Ghoul.

Stories of people gradually being transformed into literal monsters are hardly rare, and it's hardly unheard-of even for main protagonists to fill this role. They fascinate because they can provide windows into the darkest sides of human nature. Tokyo Ghoul seems intent on making that a focal point, and it is off to an excellent start so far. The execution in the second half of the episode, where Kaneki is trying to figure out what happened to him, is marvelously well-done, and Kaneki's terror at what is happening to him is practically a palpable thing. Good voice acting, visuals, and technical merits give solid support to the content, if a weekly dose of bloody mayhem is what you require, this one will not leave you disappointed.

Where the series might go next is not entirely clear, and the first episode certainly leaves some major questions to be answered, but it nonetheless plants its hooks quite firmly.

Tokyo Ghoul is currently streaming on Funimation.com.


Rebecca Silverman

Rating: 4

Review: There's a race of humanesque predators loose in Tokyo. They're called “ghouls,” and while most of the time they look just like everyone else, they survive by eating human flesh. Most ghouls only have to feed once a month or so, but there's a new female ghoul who's what they call a “binge eater,” meaning that she's just eating and eating and eating for the pure joy of it – and that joy is clearly sexual. It's sweet nerd Kaneki's bad luck to fall for what he assumes is an equally sweet and nerdy girl only to find out that she's the binge-eating ghoul...and that he's what's for dinner. A freak accident kills her, but Kaneki's gravely injured and a doctor decides to transplant her organs into him. Now Kaneki's half ghoul, with the monster's insatiable hunger for human flesh.

This horror offering is thus far off to a very intriguing start. For one thing, Rize, the ghoul who tries to eat Kaneki, is clearly an oddity among her kind – when we meet other ghouls at the end of the episode, two out of the three are very nice to the troubled Kaneki and even try to take him under their wing. Are they just a different species that humans treat as monsters because they eat people? And did that doctor know what he was doing when he transplanted Rize's organs into Kaneki? He very clearly says that he takes full responsibility, which seems unremarkable at the time, but then later when he sees how little Kaneki has eaten, he smiles. That seems a little suspicious to me. Meanwhile the visuals are fairly striking, using a lot of red and black and excellent body language to show Kaneki's torment rather than having him narrate it. There does appear to be some censoring (black space over a corpse), but not much, and this is gruesome when it wants to be. Good contrast between light and dark is also used – Rize guides Kaneki down the single dark alley in a well-lit area, for example – and everyone looks distinctly different. It does rely a little too heavily on an air of mystery and “ooo, spooky,” but generally speaking, Tokyo Ghoul's first episode gets the job done and looks to have distinct horror promise.

Tokyo Ghoul is currently streaming on Funimation.com.


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